Referendum Politics: Revisiting Regression?

Referendum would be a step backward from where we are now and many steps backward from results of the Constituent Assembly elections.

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

“Roop” and “saar” (appearance and essence) are the two words that comrade Prachanda loves using the most. Many might not instantly believe if I say the Maoist is a republican party only in roop. It’s the one force that is in essence, in the name of super leftist politics, providing breathing ground to the ailing monarchy. No one should be in doubt that the Maoists were the only force that was responsible for the postponement of the CA election slated for 22 November. They brought up the issues that were already agreed upon (proportional voting system and declaration of a republic) to derail the electoral process. Now they are bringing other non-issues as issues to undermine the prospects of any future Constituent Assembly elections. Talk of the town, suddenly, is the referendum on the fate of monarchy. In principle, no one can deny the democratic nature of the plebiscite but to talk about holding a referendum on monarchy at this point in time would be nothing but provide a life to 240 year old feudal institution.

First, if a CA election can’t happen, as Kantipur asks in today’s editorial, on what ground a referendum can happen in the same situation? The Seven Party Alliance (that includes the Maoist) should first explain to the public why they postponed the election. If the Maoists think the election were not possible because of the king, how will they convince the people that referendum would indeed be possible in the presence of the king?

Referendum would have been useful within first weeks of the successful April revolution of 2006. But now we have come very far from where we were in April 2006. The king is virtually sidelined, at least in papers. The king is on the run. He is hiding deep inside the high walls of Narayanhitti palace. The referendum will bring the king to the surface. The king and his supporters will have to be given the chance to organize campaigns. It will be easy for monarchists to openly come on behalf of the feudal institution. Call me a Kangressi but I agree with the stand taken by the Nepali Congress party that referendum will only give king a voice which will be louder than the one that will possibly come along with the results of CA elections. I am not afraid of referendum and I am sure monarchy will loose in any elections but at this point in time the interest of democratic republicanism will only suffer from the referendum compared to the CA elections. Plus, no one was shouting the slogan of referendum of monarchy in the April revolution. The referendum will bring the royalists and their puppets from deathbed. Recent activism of Krishna Prasad Bhattarai is only an example.

Referendum was never a national issue in the past two years. It was initially brought by CPN UML which was instantly snubbed by non other than the Maoists themselves. Maoists shouldn’t be trusted because they haven’t shown commitment to the agreement that they signed. If we decide to hold referendum today, there is no guarantee that the Maoists will bring up another excuse to run away from that. The only medium to tame both the Maoists and the monarchists is to go for CA election which will defeat both. And today we read an interview of chief election commissioner Bhoj Raj Pokharel in which he says the commission can hold CA election by mid-December if parties decide for the same.

The CA was such a national agenda that people from small villages in remote parts of the country to those residing in the hearts of the cities are equally disappointed and frustrated with the decision to postpone the elections. People were ready to vote. I have noticed in the past couple of days that the moral of whole country has gone down because of the decision to push elections to uncertainty. And foreigners have found a great opportunity to mock at our situation.

Look at the words of a statement issued by Indian Hindu fundamentalist party BJP. They are openly advocating for monarchy as if Gyanendra was the president of BJP: “Now the Maoists are forcing the interim parliament for the immediate abolishment of monarchy…Technically any such decision should be taken only by a properly elected constituent assembly.” And I hear a retired Indian army general in BBC Nepali Service talking about the possibility of Indian army coming to Nepal in case Maoists forcefully try to take control of Kathmandu. The only way for Maoists to go to power is through elections, he argued. I don’t blame the BJP or General (rtd.) Ashok Mehta for those remarks, our leadership deserves the credit for providing them such an opportunity.






53 responses to “Referendum Politics: Revisiting Regression?”

  1. cheguevara Avatar

    Of course after a little cooperation greed will conquer. Power is bad.
    Maoist analysts of state theory must be aware of this, but wether devotees have any theoretical knowledge of marxism and religion as opium for people? Maybe they like the part where power is bad, but then don’t grab. Just abolish money.

  2. Nepali Blogger Avatar

    “The referendum will bring the king to the surface. The king and his supporters will have to be given the chance to organize campaigns.”

    So the democracy that you are propagating will not give a forum to dissenting voices? And you oppose the kinds of elections where the supporters of someone you don’t like are “given the chance to organize campaigns?” Wow, that’s indeed a great democratic model ! Good luck with your kind of democracy!

    “Plus, no one was shouting the slogan of referendum of monarchy in the April revolution.”

    If I recall correctly, a secular state was not the slogan of the April revolution either. A win by royalists in the referendum will only go on to validate what many have believed all along – that the present bunch of hooligan-driven politicians don’t have the skills, vision, or the competence to accomplish anything and they should just resign en masse to give way for a new breed of leaders.

    On the other hand, if referendum does away with monarchy as you predict, that will be a slap in the face of any royalist that will try to oppose any other kind of decision by the CA or parliament. Case closed. Let the people decide, will you?

    “The CA was such a national agenda that people from small villages in remote parts of the country to those residing in the hearts of the cities are equally disappointed and frustrated with the decision to postpone the elections.”

    I agree, they are disappointed. But are you sure it’s because they can’t vote in the CA elections? From what I understand, two-thirds of the people do not even understand what CA is and how it functions. These people were simply rearing to go out and vote. After all, they know that voting is the ultimate democratic exercise. And as long as the incompetent politicians fight and keep on postponing elections, they are greatly suppressing the fundamental right of any democratic society.

    Gyanendra may have been an idiot and the monarchy may be a feudal system. But I am not convinced that the likes of GPK, MKN and Prachanda are the ones to lead us thorough such a great transition. Why else, would we be forced to rest our hopes on the man (GPK) who is equally, if not more, responsible for Nepal’s misfortunes as the king he is trying to overthrow?

  3. Referendum For A New Democracy Avatar

    Do we need a Referendum For A New Democracy?

    Are you concerned about the future of democracy? Do you feel democracy is under attack by extreme greed in countries around the world? Are you sick and tired of: living in fear, corporate greed, growing police state, government for the rich, working more but having less?

    Can we use both elections and random selection (in the way we select government officials) to rid democracy of undue influence by extreme wealth and wealth-dominated mass media campaigns?

    The world’s first democracy (Athenian democracy, 600 B.C.) used both elections and random selection. Even Aristotle (the cofounder of Western thought) promoted the use random selection as the best way to protect democracy. The idea of randomly selecting (after screening) juries remains from Athenian democracy, but not randomly selecting (after screening) government officials. Why is it used only for individual justice and not also for social justice? Who wins from that? …the extremely wealthy?

    What is the best way to combine elections and random selection to protect democracy in today’s world? Can we use elections as the way to screen candidates, and random selection as the way to do the final selection? Who wins from that? …the people?

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